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Girl Scout Wants Plastic Bags Removed from South Pas Retailers

The South Pasadena High School student addressed City Council Wednesday night, and asked that members consider rewarding stores that do away with plastic.

Anneliese Sloss wants people to think about the permanency of plastic.

In fact, the South Pasadena High School student is so passionate about plastics pollution that she's taken her concern to the City Council: Sloss asked council members Wednesday night to consider rewarding South Pas stores that don't use plastic bags.

"It's an ethical problem and a human health problem,'' said Sloss, a Girl Scout who is working toward her Gold Award. "Twenty-five percent of plastics thrown away are unaccounted for and end up in one of five ocean gyres,'' she said, noting a gyre are areas of slow spiraling water with low winds. 

Sloss' project intends to make youth aware of the pollution situation, as well as look for ways to make her city more sustainable. She has created children's coloring books highlighting the problem, and has also made presentations to elementary schools, such as a recent visit to the fourth graders at Marengo. 

"Single-use plastics are such a bad problem,'' she said, asking council members if they could encourage stores to make the switch from plastic to paper bags by annually or biannually giving commendations to them. That way, Sloss said, employers could hang the certificates in the window as a matter of pride.

"So it becomes something they want to do rather than something they're forced to do,'' she said.

Councilman Michael Caccioti said he thought it was a great idea, but encouraged Sloss to pitch her idea to the Natural Resources and Environmental Commission. The commission members would then talk about the topic, take public input on the matter and potentially bring a measure before the council.  

Wearing her Girl Scout uniform, awash in badges, the teen said she would do just that. 

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H.M. February 07, 2013 at 10:01 PM
Im all for it, hate those dang bags!
P. Y. February 07, 2013 at 10:23 PM
Every bag I get is reused as a garbage bag at home. Please support the right for people to choose the bag to use. I am all for people choosing to bring their own bags, but please do not force that other responsible plastic bag users.
Donna Evans (Editor) February 07, 2013 at 11:15 PM
Glad you make that point, P.Y. Perhaps Anneliese considered folks with your view point when she said would like to see plastic bags removed from stores, but was not asking City Council to ban them. She suggested a reward for stores that do so.
Betty Jean February 08, 2013 at 06:38 AM
I've been seeing plastic bags in the streets everywhere in SP. Why? It was never like this. In the last week I've seen tons of bags from stores and dog bags {empty and filled} which is gross! Some dog owners are real pigs.
P. Y. February 08, 2013 at 07:14 AM
Ultimately Anneliese wants stores to stop offering plastic bags. If all SP stores were incentivized to stop offering them, it has the same effect as a ban. Yes, her plan is that stores choose to use plastic bags or not. My belief is that the _customer_ should get that choice. Please encourage _people_ to use cloth bags, but do not encourage stores to take our choice away.
Scott Jones February 08, 2013 at 03:51 PM
I do not shop in Pasadena anymore because I cant get a bag. Be responsible for your own stuff and stop trying to legislate everything!! Its getting ridiculous.
Herbert Barnes February 08, 2013 at 03:57 PM
Judging by the number of people I see carrying their own bags into stores, I think Annelise's concern is shared by an ever growing number of consumers. But I feel the SP City Council missed a near golden "teachable moment" in their response. They should have pointed out to Annelise that with her graphic skills and the assistance of a small group of her concerned friends, she could design and distribute a far more attractive & much more compelling certificate or small poster than the City. If she doesn't have access to a desktop color printer I would gladly print her certificates. Like any other citizen, Anneliese will eventually learn the limitations of governmental effectiveness.
Narwhal of Reason February 08, 2013 at 07:43 PM
My reward for stores that don't offer plastic bags is to not shop there.
spidra February 08, 2013 at 08:31 PM
You still have the right to choose the bag you use. You can buy them right here: http://www.tsisupplies.com/store/T-Shirt-Style-Bags/Wholesale-T-Shirt-Style-Shopping-Bags-White-Standard-Size-Plastic-T-Shirt-Bags/
S. Ray February 08, 2013 at 08:47 PM
There's a bigger point here being missed. A recent study shows that when San Francisco adopted its plastic grocery bag ban, hospital emergency room admissions from food borne illness spiked as did related deaths by a similar amount. Does this girl want a similar result in South Pasadena simply so she can get her Girl Scout Gold Award? I certainly hope not, and I hope that our city leaders, who include 2 doctors among their ranks, exercise some adult judgment on this rather than simply some knee-jerk, feel-good political correctness. Here is a link to the study, one of the authors of which is with the Property and Environment Research Center: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2196481&download=yes The study concludes, "Using standard estimates of the statistical value of life, ... the health costs associated with the San Francisco ban swamp any budgetary savings from reduced litter. This assessment is unlikely to be reversed even if fairly liberal estimates of the other environmental benefits are included." Later, the authors state, "We find that both deaths and ER visits spiked as soon as the ban went into effect. Relative to other counties, deaths in San Francisco increase by almost 50 percent, and ER visits increase by a comparable amount. Subsequent bans by other cities in California appear to be associated with similar effects." While washing bags may be an answer, no one addresses the added environmental costs of doing so.
abby goldberg February 08, 2013 at 10:31 PM
yea Anneliese! I am a 13 yr. old in Illinois trying to do the same! Maybe we can connect? facebook.com/activistabby. I am trying to get stores to have reuasble bag only lane! Good luck!!! -Abby
Donna Evans (Editor) February 08, 2013 at 11:49 PM
How very cool, Abby! Where did you see this story? Always love to know where out-of-state folks see our links :-)
Donna Evans (Editor) February 09, 2013 at 12:37 AM
It's astounding to me that people wouldn't know to wash their re-usable bags. But as for this study, a Huffington Post piece pointed out that "The study was harshly criticized by environmentalists, as its authors received monetary support from the American Chemistry Council, a trade group representing the interests of plastic bag manufacturers.'' http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/07/plastic-bag-ban_n_2641430.html
spidra February 09, 2013 at 02:38 AM
Most doctors have enough training in scientific method to realize that correlation alone does not equal causation. Furthermore, the paper you link to was written by two lawyers, not two scientists.
Justanotheropinion February 09, 2013 at 04:11 AM
When this first became a 'topic de jour' last year, I read an article somewhere that provided a study on this. It stated that plastic bags accounted for LESS than 1% of waste. Yes, LESS than 1%. I was astonished. So much hoopla over less than 1%. Where is the outrage over the other 99+% of waste? Where is the outrage over the type of waste that is even 5% or 40% of waste? Me thinks that plastic bags were an easy target. Many people (me included) reuse the plastic grocery store bags for MANY other uses. As P.Y. stated, it's fine if you want to bring your own bags when you shop, but don't limit MY choice as to how I get goods out of a store. I recently left $200 worth of items at Target in Pasadena when I was told (after they rung me up) that due to the new "no plastic bag ban', I had to pay for bags unless I had brought my own. I simply walked out. Should SP adopt this same attitude, I will spend my dollars elsewhere. Being aware of what you do with 'waste' is fine, but I'm a little tired of zealots (for whatever cause), believing that their cause trumps everyone else.
S. Ray February 09, 2013 at 08:30 PM
Donna, of course the environmentalists will attack the study. It doesn't fit their template. I note that even the liberal HuffPo discussion states that the sole basis of the criticism was who supported the study, not its results or methodology, and I also note that the HuffPo piece indicates that the study finds support in another study performed by the University of Arizona and Loma Linda University School of Public Health, the latter of which is not questioned. While I agree that people should wash their reusable bags, I question the environmental impact of doing so versus using the plastic bags. After all, it takes fresh water (a scarce environmental resource), soap (a known environmental contaminant), and energy (the production of which has an environmental impact) to wash the reusable bags. And, as the study points out, human nature makes it so that most people simply don't wash their bags after each use as recommended to avoid the food borne illness risk. My point therefore is the same; it's a simple fact that abandoning plastic bags for reusable ones involves increased health risks and consequences that outweigh the benefits of banning the bags. Unfortunately, many environmentalists think that it is better that people die than that we use plastic bags because in the process, we will have fewer polluters. Sad.
S. Ray February 09, 2013 at 08:48 PM
Attacking the messengers does not equal attacking the conclusions, spidra. There is no reason that two lawyers cannot look at the statistical data, which is gathered by but not meant exclusively for doctors, and arrive at reasoned conclusions concerning that data. After all, lawyers work with and use doctors all the time to support their presentations of evidence. I am still waiting for someone who will say that the study is simply wrong and support it with empirical data. Instead, what we have seen is that the study finds support in another study done by the University of Arizona and the Loma Linda University School of Public Health. Presumably, the doctors at those two august institutions "realize that correlation alone does not equal causation," but they did a study and came to the same conclusion.
spidra February 10, 2013 at 03:36 AM
Looking at the credentials and experience of who is making an argument, particularly in a "research" paper, is part of critical thinking. What standing does someone have? What field is their field of expertise? Lawyers are generally trained to make arguments and persuade for or against a point, particularly points of law. While they may marshall statistics in their arguments, they're not public health professionals, doctors or scientists. Unless these two are, which you're welcome to demonstrate if that's the case. Lawyers "work with and use" doctors they hire. It's called professional testimony. Doctors that disagree with or are neutral about the point they try to make are not the ones they "work with", if that's what you call hiring a professional witness. There is no indication in the credits of this research paper that a doctor was consulted nor that either of the two authors have medical, science or public health credentials. It is interesting that you welcome people to disprove the study with empirical data when the study you link to doesn't *prove* its conclusion with empirical data nor have you added any of your own to back up why a study sponsored by an industry group and written by two legal professionals is a well-constructed scientific study that adheres to established scientific method in establishing its conclusion. =cont'd
spidra February 10, 2013 at 03:36 AM
= cont'd What the study does is look at the statistics for deaths from intestinal diseases in several CA counties during a period that overlaps the establishment of a plastic bag ban in San Francisco county and compares those to statistics of death from intestinal disease before that ban. There are many causes of intestinal disease - food poisoning from improper food handling at a restaurant, improper food handling at a slaughterhouse or meat packaging plant, contamination with effluent at a vegetable farm, not washing hands after going to the bathroom. To prove the vector of infection, you have to do research. That's what the CDC and USDA do when there's a suspected outbreak. But this study hasn't done any of that. Presumably the doctors who treated these patients did preliminary investigation as to where they picked up E. coli or Salmonella or Campylobacter, but this study doesn't look at that. It just looks at statistics of all deaths in SF County from intestinal disease no matter what the vector. It draws the conclusion, simply looking at two things in a selected period, that one caused the other. Post hoc ergo propter hoc. To illustrate more clearly how ridiculous that is: "My mother-in-law came to stay overnight last night. The house caught on fire last night. Mother-in-laws cause house fires."
spidra February 10, 2013 at 03:40 AM
The Loma Linda study found E. coli in 8% of the bags it looked at in its study. They conclude that it's possible for E. coli to grow in a reusable bag if you leave raw meat juice in a bag and store it in the trunk of a car for 2 hours. This isn't a big shocker. E. coli will grow many many places if you leave raw meat juice somewhere and it has room temp or warmer to grow in for 2 hours. This is true of your kitchen cutting board as well. http://articles.latimes.com/1999/may/16/news/mn-37756 This microbiologist found 10% of the washing machines he cultured had E. coli. Are washing machines sources of increased health risks that outweigh their benefits? http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/issues/97sep/water.htm At the end of their abstract, they call for further education of consumers about the importance of washing their bags and not cross-contaminating food. Cross-contamination happens in many places besides the bottom of a reusable bag, including people's kitchens. restaurants and home economics classrooms. So, sensibly, they call for further education rather than leaping to the conclusion that the fact that E. coli were found on 8% of the bags guarantees a leap in intestinal infections caused by E. coli whose origins were on reusable bags.
spidra February 10, 2013 at 03:41 AM
"it's a simple fact that abandoning plastic bags for reusable ones involves increased health risks and consequences that outweigh the benefits of banning the bags." No, it's not a simple fact. The papers you reference do not prove what you're trying to assert.
S. Ray February 10, 2013 at 08:54 PM
The point that I am trying to assert is that the current evidence is that after plastic grocery bags are banned, "hospital emergency room admissions from food borne illness spiked as did related deaths by a similar amount." The authors of two studies have now looked at the data and concluded that there is a cause and effect relationship. No one has suggested that this is not true. It is a simple and apparently uncontroverted fact that the presence of E. coli bacteria increases in food bags that are not washed after each use, and that human nature being what it is, those bags rarely are. Scientists have now looked at the data and concluded that there is therefore a cause and effect relationship between increases in food borne illnesses and deaths and banning plastic bags, particularly since the data show that where other counties and cities ban the bags, the increases in hospital visits and deaths from food borne illness follow. No other cause has been suggested. It's impossible to show that a particular person contracted a food borne illness from a particular cause simply due to the nature of the illness, but it is equally impossible to ignore the apparent cause and effect relationship, given all the evidence.
spidra February 11, 2013 at 01:04 AM
"It's impossible to show that a particular person contracted a food borne illness from a particular cause simply due to the nature of the illness" It's actually quite possible to demonstrate that a particular person contracted food-borne illness from a particular cause. The CDC does it all the time. http://www.cdc.gov/outbreaknet/
S. Ray February 11, 2013 at 04:03 PM
"It's actually quite possible to demonstrate that a particular person contracted food-borne illness from a particular cause. The CDC does it all the time." Not exactly true, spidra. For example, whenever these outbreaks of food borne illness occur, not everyone who comes into contact with the source of the contamination gets ill. It all depends on a variety of factors, including their overall health and constitution. What the CDC does is look for sources of food borne illness, like contaminated reusable grocery bags, and then queries whether a person who is ill came into contact with the source of contamination, like eating food that was transported in the contaminated bag. From that, they deduce a cause and effect relationship. They cannot, for a fact, prove that the source of the illness was the contaminated bag, however, instead of some other contact that the person may have had with another contamination source. All that they can do is look at possible sources and deduce a cause/effect. This is precisely what the authors of the two studies have done, and it is what you attack. Yet it passes the test of good science, for the CDC, for the University of Arizona and the Loma Linda University School of Public Health, and for the Social Science Research Network.
Zelda Fish February 17, 2013 at 08:49 AM
I refuse to shop where plastic bags aren't offered. Why because too often I go in for few items and end up with a cart. More importantly it's my choice and I'm sick of people taking choices away due to THEIR beliefs. There are many people using the bags to pick up their dog poop and they won't be buying bags. I'd rather see a bag than step in poop. I refuse to shop where bags aren't offered w/o cost. I have my own cloth bags but it's not always enough or practical. I don't want meat in a cloth bag. I don't want paper bags as it's a great way to bring roach eggs home. How about we start teaching our children to be responsible people and not to be such liberals that they seem to find the need to control everyone else and their behavior. How about forcing responsibility onto each person's own back instead of controlling everyone because a few people are idiots. You don't control or change the masses for a few. That seems to be what we are doing all the time. How about calling out the few and correcting their behavior rather than lump us as all irresponsible. I resent it.
spidra March 14, 2013 at 08:32 AM
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/mar/08/spain-sperm-whale-death-swallowed-plastic "The plastic had eventually blocked the animal's stomach and killed it, according to researchers from the Doñana national park research centre in Andalusia.....In all the whale's stomach contained two dozen pieces of transparent plastic, some plastic bags, nine metres of rope, two stretches of hosepipe, two small flower pots and a plastic spray canister."

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